Virtual Ada Lovelace Day 2020

Ignite! and BioCity, the pioneering life science incubator and business collective, brought together ninety students from five Nottingham secondary schools, to celebrate the legacy of the celebrated Nottingham mathematician, Ada Lovelace, to inspire young women into STEM careers.

In previous years, young women have been invited to spend the day undertaking activities within BioCity; however, this, the third Ada Lovelace Day hosted by BioCity, was held virtually, in a fitting tribute to the first female programmer. Students from Nottingham Girls Academy, Park Vale Academy, Toot Hill School, Colonel Frank Seely Academy and Farnborough Academy were connected with female ‘scientists in residence’ to gain first-hand insights and practical experience in STEM careers. Scientists, mathematicians and engineers from BioCity-based XenoGesis and Azotic Technologies, the University of Nottingham, the University of Glasgow, UK Atomic Energy, HGF, Future Food Beacon, Elasmogen, Romax Technology and Walgreens Boots Alliance all volunteered their time to join the event remotely.

In an introductory message to the students, Dr Rebecca Todd, member of the BioCity Board, talked about the potential for real-world impact that is possible through careers in STEM. “A background in STEM-related subjects gives students a fantastic grounding for whatever they choose to pursue,” said Dr Todd. “You are taught to question, to approach challenges logically and come up with creative solutions – if you are trained as a scientist or engineer, you will always think like one. The variety of career options available in STEM is huge. I never imagined that my academic background would eventually lead to a career as a venture capitalist, but this is the way that I am able to play a part in enabling technology and human endeavour to do good in the world.”

Working within their own classrooms but connected virtually through the event, students spent the morning creating their own solutions to challenges set by the ‘scientists in residence’, before presenting their findings to the group. Solar panelled litter picking robots, grapevine fishing nets and heart rate monitoring smart glasses were just a few of the novel solutions that the pupils came up with.

At the beginning and end of the event, students were asked to ‘draw a scientist and list the type of jobs they do’. The differences before and after were stark, as, traditional gender stereotypes were replaced with possibility, prospects and opportunity.

Megan Shore, Ignite! Communications Executive said “We were so pleased to have been able to deliver our Ada Lovelace Day event again, and in spite of all the restrictions and changes, we adapted by using new technologies to beam into the classroom. It’s so important for us to be able to provide female pupils with the opportunity to ask scientists insightful questions and undertake activities which encourage them to think like scientists.”

Beth Dolecki, Senior Beauty L&D Manager for Boots UK and Chair of the Women of Walgreens UK BRG said, “This is the second year that Walgreens Boots Alliance has supported Ada Lovelace day. It was a real team effort from all of the Women of Walgreens UK BRG, and we had lots of fun creating an interactive experience that we hope inspired the young women that took part. The aim was to encourage young women to see the potential career paths in STEM available at WBA. As a business resource group we continue to support the event and opportunities it presents to the young women involved.”

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